Monday, April 29, 2013

Game Dev Tycoon Has Hilarious Anti-Piracy Measures

Doing fun things to the coding of your games that are only visible on pirated versions of it is not a new concept by any means, but it is almost always a fun one to explore.  These little bits of coding, whatever they set off, it's solely intended on being viewed by someone who has not actually paid money for your game, nor gone through anyone who paid money for it either (like a gifting option).  As such, you might expect them to be mean-spirited or even just nasty, yet I can't honestly name one instance of that - everything basically boils down to electrifying the cookie jar lid so that you get a little shock when you try to sneak one before dinner.  You cast a sheepish look around and spot someone just giving you a knowing smirk - the trap-setter - and the two of you share a shrug.  No harm done, I suppose, but you've got to play by the rules now.  After all, you just literally got caught red-handed.

Take this instance for example, if you would:  Game Dev Tycoon is a game where you start up a game development company sometime in the 80s as a small operation with the intention of building it into a big brand that releases blockbuster titles.  It's not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last, and it's a genuinely interesting concept if nothing else.  It has a natural, obvious progression and for the most part, it's something you could likely sink time into 'indefinitely', except I imagine there's a point where the game 'ends' because of the years that have passed, if nothing else, and your success is measured then.  Maybe I'm wrong on that, however.  Regardless, if you're a legitimate purchaser and player of the game, you'll be able to have a nice, thriving company if you run it right.  However, if you've not purchased the game, eventually the games that your studio is making will start getting pirated more and more, and sold less and less.  Such a recipe is only good for disaster and, eventually, your company will go bankrupt.

This was the scenario that played out for a staggering 94% of initial playersNinety-four.  Of the 3,318 copies of the game that were floating around through the internet after its initial release, only 214 of them were purchased legitimately and it's thanks to this little anti-piracy scheme that we're seeing the true scope of this kind of figure.  People took to message boards, not-so-innocently lamenting the fact that they were unable to actually complete the game proper because their studios kept closing.  "Why are there so many pirates?  They're ruining my studio!" is exclaimed, yet nobody really understands the subtle irony to it because it is not exactly subtle, being the majority.  There's something funny about one or two people who pirated the game taking to message boards and voicing their confusion at a very obvious issue, as it always is in these situations.  There's something incredibly sad when those boards get flooded and it's less the outlier and more the norm.

I'll not get into the philosophical debate about whether or not piracy actually leads to lost income in developers since every side to the argument ends up going over semantics about entitlement and it's just not a fun conversation any way you slice it.  I will, however, say that I think this is absolutely brilliant if just for the subtle jab it takes that couldn't help but look for a better impact with the 95% piracy rate of the game.  Seriously, it's $8.  It's made by a handful of guys.  You seriously can't spend $8 to support these dudes for making a game that you obviously want to play?  And the "Piracy-As-Demo" idea doesn't fly considering there's an actual demo of the game.  With any luck, the exposure their story has gotten from the little piracy thing will divert a few sales their way since they deserve some money if just for providing a good laugh.  Yeah, their game isn't completely totally original, but what is anymore?  If it works and if it's fun, that's all that matters.

"wait my studio closed because of piracy?  geez, it's like karma or something"

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